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Preparation of algal extracts. © Studio FUN IMAGES, Laurent Rannou

Marine algae to reduce the use of antibiotics in farming

As part of a partnership with Olmix Group, INRA researchers have shown that a compound extracted from green algae inhibited the growth of pathogenic bacteria in vitro and stimulated the production of immunity mediators by intestinal epithelial cells. This type of preparation could be used in livestock feed to improve animals’ resistance to infections and therefore reduce the use of antibiotics. These results were published on 8 March 2016 in the Journal of Applied Phycology.

Updated on 06/30/2017
Published on 03/10/2016

Marine algae are chlorophyll-containing aquatic plants that grow on the seabed. They are classified in three groups depending on their pigments: brown algae (phaeophyceae), red algae (rhodophyceae) and green algae (chlorophyceae or ulvales). The cell wall of these marine algae, are rich in sulfated polysaccharides, which possess physicochemical and biological properties that could have potential applications in the pharmaceutical industry, biomedicine, cosmetology and farming or as additives in human and animal food.

Created in 1995, Olmix Group is specialized in promoting the use of green algae harvested in Brittany by processing them into innovative natural products for plant, animal and human nutrition and health sectors. With the aim of identifying beneficial bioactive molecules, Olmix Group prepared an extract of sulphated polysaccharide known as marine sulphated polysaccharides (MSP), using Ulva armoricana green marine algae harvested in Brittany. Within a research partnership between Olmix Group and the INRA Val de Loire Infectiology and Public Health Research Centre, an MSP was studied in vitro to test its capacity to inhibit bacterial growth and stimulate the production of immunity mediators. The MSP’s ability to inhibit bacterial growth was observed on a panel of 42 strains of pathogenic bacteria isolated directly from livestock or their environment. The growth of Pasteurella multocida, Manheimia haemolytica, Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae, Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus suis was inhibited by the action of MSP and more sensitive than Salmonella or E. coli. MSP also induced an increased production of cytokines, in an in vitro system of differentiated porcine intestinal epithelial cells. The stimulation of these immune mediators indicate a potential stimulation of intestinal immunity by MSP.

Marine algae represent a source sulphated polysaccharides (including MSPs) which could be used in livestock feed to inhibit the growth of pathogens and boost the immune response. This could improve animals’ resistance to infections and reduce the use of antibiotics on farms. On the long term, INRA and Olmix aim at developing active ingredients to be administered in animal feed, without side effects, and provide a benefit to the health and digestive comfort of the animals. Such preventive methods could reduce the incidence of situations requiring therapeutic approaches and thus potentially reduce antibiotic use.

Collecting Ulva armoricana on the coast in Brittany. © Studio FUN IMAGES, Laurent Rannou
Collecting Ulva armoricana on the coast in Brittany © Studio FUN IMAGES, Laurent Rannou

Scientific contact(s):

  • El Mostafa Berri (+33 2 47 42 73 19) Infectiology and Public Health Centre (Inra, François Rabelais de Tours University)
Press Relations:
INRA Press Office (+33 1 42 75 91 86), Laurence Guillevic / Olmix (+33 2 97 38 81 03)
Associated Division(s):
Animal Health
Associated Centre(s):
Val de Loire